Importing from Canada to the UK: A Guide for Businesses

Affectionately nicknamed the Great White North, Canada is a great global power with a huge export market. Plus, thanks to a shared language, a number of trading agreements and an incredibly similar culture, Canada has always exported to the UK in high volume. But, if you’re importing form Canada, you’re importing from outside the EU, so there are a number of things you need to know. This guide will outline them all in detail.

Fact File

  • Capital City: Ottawa
  • Largest City: Toronto
  • National Languages: English, French
  • Currency: Canadian Dollar ($)
  • GDP Total: $1.628 trillion
  • Population: 35,985,751
  • Area: 9,984,670 km2


Canada’s Top Exports

In 2014, Canada’s exports amounted to US$472.9 billion, which is a 22.3% increase from the same statistics in 2010, showing us that Canada’s economic and exporting power is increasing.


Recent statistics released by the International Monetary Fund also reveal that, in 2014, Canada’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $1.592 trillion. This means that 29.7% of Canada’s economic output was made up of exports. With a population of near 36 million, this also means that their exports translate to around $13,000 for every resident in the country.


If you’re looking for imports from Canada, then there are a number of areas to look into. Canada’s top exports are:


  • Oil (27.2% of total exports)
  • Vehicles (12.6%)
  • Machines, engines, pumps (6.9%)
  • Gems, precious metals, coins (4.3%)
  • Electronic equipment (2.9%)


As well as these, Canada also has a number of up and coming export markets that are perfect for British businesses. For example, cereals have grown by over 55% in the past five years, while export sales of wood were also up by 49%. Finally, Canadian oil posted the third-fastest gain at 39.6%. This was a category dominated by crude oil and to a lesser degree refined petroleum products and petroleum gases.

The Rules When Importing From Canada

When you’re importing from Canada, you’re importing from outside the EU. This means that you’ll have to pay the appropriate level of VAT and duty on all of your goods. Various trade agreements are often in place, but you’ll have to check that you have the right commodity code. This will help you calculate the correct level of duty, tax and VAT. It will also show you the regulations you need to follow.


Duties: Using the Trade Tariff

The amount of duty that you have to pay will depend on two different things, firstly how the goods are classified under the UK Trade Tariff and how the goods will be used once in the UK. If you use the Trade Tariff, you’ll also be able to see whether there are any restrictions on the items you’re planning to import. Some countries do place restrictions on items or prohibit them being shipped, so ensure you check this carefully to avoid fines.


Plus, if you’re importing firearms or goods of this nature, you’ll also need a licence to import them. Check the Trade Tariff and other government legislation to see whether your goods require you to have an import licence.


Paying the Appropriate VAT

When you bring your items from Canada inside the EU, you’ll have to pay VAT directly to HMRC. Your business should already be VAT registered if you’re based in the UK. If this is the case, ensure that you fill in a VAT return. This way you can claim the VAT back if the goods are used for business purposes.


The standard rate of UK VAT is 20%, which is also charged on most imports. However, some are VAT free while other items are charged at a reduced rate.


Declaring Your Goods to HMRC

All imports from Canada must be declared to HMRC using an SAD. This can be submitted through the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system (also known as CHIEF). This makes a record of any goods you declare have entered the UK and, because it’s computerised, it’s quick and accurate.


However, here at TNT we can make this process far simpler, doing it for you using our Express Import System. There are options to suit your timescale and budget, so take a look.